Profile: An Externship in India
August 03, 2015
This is the first installment in a series of stories featuring some of the over 100 Lewis & Clark law students who completed summer externships in 2015.
This summer, two second year law students, Anna Donnell and Raj Reddy, had an experience many law students dream of as they externed for the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) in New Dehli, India. Donnell, an aspiring criminal prosecutor who wants to focus on sex-trafficking and crime victim issues, and Reddy, who is pursuing animal law, were among dozens of other HRLN interns and externs from the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and India.
Applicants for the HRLN externship must provide a resume and answer questions about their interests in human rights work, their international experiences, and experiences with different cultures. The application is relatively straightforward, while gaining the required employment visa is more challenging and can take up to a couple months.
We asked Donnell and Reddy to share their experiences at the HRLN. Here are the answers to our questions:
Q: How did you learn of the externship at the HRLN?
AD: Associate Dean Libby Davis encouraged me to apply after we discussed my background, interests, and goals. I had seen it promoted in Lewis & Clark Law School pamphlets and on the school website, but I hadn’t seriously considered it until Libby’s recommendation.
RR: I discovered the HRLN externship opportunity while searching through the Career & Professional Development Center’s job and externship database back in December and completed my application over winter break.
Q: Why were you interested in applying for it?
RR: While my focus at Lewis & Clark is animal law, human rights law represents an area that I wanted to explore before I graduated. I wanted to be introduced to a different legal framework and to understand how it worked.
AD: I am interested in global law and in working against sex trafficking. I thought the externship in India would provide an excellent blend of both interests. I wanted to learn how sex trafficking affects other cultures and gather information about how various communities approach the issue. I thought that working in a culture different from my own would be invaluable experience for both my legal career and personal growth. I want the knowledge I’ve obtained from my experience in India to help me prosecute sex traffickers in Oregon and potentially prosecute offenders internationally.
Q: What type of work did you do in your position and what responsibilities did you have?
RR: I was lucky enough to experience a balance of field work and legal drafting. My main project was to visit four Delhi slums and interview waste collectors, commonly known as rag-pickers. Their livelihoods had been put in jeopardy by the government’s proposed solid waste management rules. In essence, the public interest litigation I was putting together was intended to ensure that the informal sector was awarded first right to waste. Other demands that the public interest litigation included were additional safeguards to protect workers’ health and increase their income.
AD: My assignments have included collecting data from rag-pickers (people who earn income by collecting waste); researching disability law in America to help write an effective petition to the Supreme Court of India to change disability law in India; researching the infant and maternal mortality rate in one of the regions of India, completing a report about child marriage to be filed with the Supreme Court; writing letters to the Indian government requesting compensation for survivors of acid attacks; and creating a pamphlet about acid attacks to be distributed throughout India to inform attorneys about the crime and how to approach the issue legally.
Q: What are the most significant, or rewarding, things you’ve been able to work on?
RR: My most rewarding experience had to have been the waste collector public interest litigation project. Getting to meet several of the workers whom we were advocating on behalf of made me feel more invested in and more devoted to the legal drafting work I was doing in the office on most days. Again, the field work was difficult and demanding, but it gave me a fuller picture of who our clients were and why the case was important to them.
AD: I have most enjoyed working on the issue of acid attacks. I have learned a lot, but I have also been able to apply and expand upon my previous knowledge about the rights of crime victims. I believe my experience with acid attack cases will translate to the work I hope to do against sex trafficking.
You get out of it what you put into it. There is plenty of work to do but sometimes externs are required to push for assignments. HRLN wants to ensure that all its externs and interns learn a lot about human rights, so the supervisors provide externs with a wide variety of opportunities to learn about and discuss different issues. I have not learned much about the practice of Indian law that will translate over to practicing American law. However, the knowledge I have gained has been invaluable. No matter what happens in my personal life and career, I am forever changed for the better by the experiences I had in India this summer. I will apply that knowledge no matter what I do and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Q: Have you, or are you planning to, participate in any other externships or practical skills while in law school?
AD: I signed up for the crime victim litigation clinic through the National Crime Victim Law Institute and for mock trial. I would like to do an externship next summer with the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office.
RR: I was a source checker for the Animal Law Review in my first year, and this year I’ll be the journal’s Managing Editor. I will also be taking the animal law legislative drafting and lobbying course this fall. I hope to add to my moot court experience by taking two other moot courts during my 3L year, when I also plan to enroll in the animal law clinic.
Q: What have you been doing in your spare time this summer?
RR: Although my externship took up most of my days, I was able to carve out time to do some creative writing and to travel around India and Nepal. Lewis & Clark also happened to offer an online course on the law of humane science, and so for two weeks, I was taking that course as well. In all, it was a very enriching and productive summer.
AD: I have been spending time with friends and animals, taking trips, and attempting to catch up on sleep!